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February 19, 2019  |  Written by Lauren D. Bernadett

Governor Newsom Makes Several Changes to Water Policy and Leadership in California

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced several changes that will immediately impact California water policy.

In the Governor’s State of the State address delivered to a joint session of the California Legislature on February 12, 2019, he noted that the state must make “tough calls” on water, and he advocated for a “fresh approach.”  The Governor stated that he does not support the current design of the California WaterFix project, which includes two tunnels for transporting water south.  Instead, he stated that he supports a single tunnel, an approach that will require significant changes in the state’s planning and review for the project.

In addition to WaterFix, the Governor mentioned in his address several other important California water issues.  He hinted at a revival of a drinking water tax by emphasizing the demand and need for clean drinking water in houses and schools, and noted the differences in the cost of water among different communities.  He stated that California must build more water infrastructure to meet long-term demand throughout the state.

The Governor also took the State of the State address as an opportunity to announce he was appointing Joaquin Esquivel as the new Chair of the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board).  Mr. Esquivel replaces Felicia Marcus, who had been the Chair of the State Water Board since 2013.  The Governor stated that Mr. Esquivel will be responsible for a different approach to the Bay Delta Plan.  The State Water Board’s current approach has already resulted in litigation by several groups impacted by the Plan.

On the same day as the State of the State address, Governor Newsom appointed Laurel Firestone as the newest State Water Board member.  Firestone is the co-founder and co-executive director of the Community Water Center, a Visalia-based non-profit working to ensure all communities have clean and affordable water.

Finally, Governor Newsom also appointed William Lyons as the Agricultural Liaison to the Governor’s Office.  Lyons is the CEO of Lyons Investments Management, and previously served as the Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

For additional information please contact Lauren Bernadett at lbernadett@somachlaw.com.

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